Friday, 19 April 2013

If I hadn't seen it I wouldn't have believed it

Well, it's Friday again and the promise of two days off when the temperature may reach into double figures, lightens my soul like only the crying of someone else's children in Waitrose normally does.

Sorry the Blog skipped yesterday, it's all this damn paying work getting in the way again.

I know you guys like to hear about how much the real-life world of IT is like the one depicted in 'The IT Crowd', so I thought I'd recount some of the fun and exciting things that happened to me during what I consider to be my first 'Real' job.

The year was 1985, the wreck of the Titanic had just been discovered, Axel F by Harold Faltermeyer hadn't been totally buggered by that frog thing and Mick Jagger and David Bowie were at the top of the charts with 'Dancing in the Streets' (Whilst not looking at all gay in the slightest)

I was seventeen and worked for a small (and now sadly defunct) marketing company, based in a renovated stable, in the small Derbyshire village of Brailsford.  It was run by a couple, let's call them John and Margot (Because that was their names) who had, if I was being charitable, delusions of grandeur.  They'd drive around in his slightly scabby Alfa-Sud, him in a sharp three-piece suit and her in tight-fitting business-wear where the blouses were low-cut and the skirts were short, as was the fashion in the 80's if you wanted to do business.

Their core business was printing promotional items, little metal signs, t-shirts, that sort of thing, but they'd just bought into a PC network reselling scheme and they were doing their best to tout it around local businesses.  They weren't technical, and at the time, I wasn't particularly either, which was recipe for hilarity if ever I heard one.

A normal work day would be:  Get the bus to work and then wait outside in the rain and the wind for the bosses to turn up. Put the kettle on and go to the newsagents for the Daily Express.  Make coffee and fire up the camping stove.  Listen to John reading out the headlines whilst Margot tutted and I cooked bacon for sandwiches. Drink strong coffee and eat the sandwiches. Do the Express crossword.  Print a few t-shirts. Go to the Pub.  Offer to exchange printing services for beer.  Stay at pub for two hours.  Stagger back to the office.  Drink Coffee.  Wait for John & Margot to fall asleep.  Get bus home.

Very little I.T. related stuff there, I think you'll agree.  But that all suddenly changed after I'd been there about three months.   Then we got a couple of PCs delivered from the resellers and I started demo-ing them to prospective customers.  Business really took off... Kinda...


We arranged a demo for Charing Cross hospital in London and I arranged to meet John at the railway station so we could travel down together and discuss 'Strategy'.  He didn't turn up (Bearing in mind this was before mobile phones so I couldn't chase him), luckily we'd had the kit sent to directly to site, so I arrived and set it up in this chap's office. The demo went as well as could be expected seeing as I was not a salesman, merely a scrawny, long haired, metalhead.  The demo was finished by lunchtime and the customer turned to me and said.

'Shall we get some lunch?'

'Yes... That'd be great, thanks.'  I replied.

'You do have an expense account, right?' He asked.

'Ah, no, not really,' I looked in my pocket and found the grand total of £3.45

'OK,' He said, 'I'll pay, but I'm going to send your company a bill for it.'

Which in fairness was exactly what he did, we sat in the pub for a couple of hours talking about how awful my company was and how he didn't blame me, then I caught the train home.  We never recovered the kit.  John's excuse was that he'd had a skinfull the night before and had forgotten all about it.


Another time, we had the chance of demo-ing the system to Shell UK.  I knew this wasn't going to go well, but I had my suit dry-cleaned anyway.  The demo took place at, what was then, Shell House on The Strand (again in London) and this time we all drove down there in the Main Distributor's Jag, with the kit in the boot.  The demo was due to take place in the mid-afternoon and we arrived there at about eleven-ish.  We unloaded the PCs and took them up to the conference room, where I was left to unbox and set them up whilst everyone else went to the pub.  five minutes or so before the demo was due, my bosses, the distributor and the Shell guy who'd arranged the meeting all rolled through the door, giggling and doing that 'Shush' thing to each other and the other ten Shell senior managers in the room, that you do when you're drunk and people are scowling at you.

Again, the demo went OK, we had to stop a few times when John forgot what he was saying, or had to ask me about how the system actually worked, or had to go to the toilet.  Luckily not a great number of people were actually paying attention, as Margot was perched, bleary eyed, on a chair in the corner with her skirt ridden up so far that not only could you see she was wearing stockings, but also a thong (She allegedly had a friend who worked with Janet Reger, and we would often be treated to an impromptu fashion show when she had acquired a new item).

At the end of the demo, the distributor asked if there were any questions, accused the chap who asked the first one of storing half of his breakfast on his tie and then promptly took a step back and fell over his chair.

Upon our exit, John did a stage wink at the Shell chap who'd taken them for lunch and said:

'Cheers Brian, the cheque's in the post'

We didn't get the business, and the most surprising thing was that John was surprised.


As business started to slump, they gave me a key to the office and they started to come in less and less.  This suited me just fine, and would have suited me even better if the Internet had been freely available.  I'd come in at about 10-ish, wait for Margot to ring to check I was there, go to the pub, back to the office for an hour and then go home.  During this time, I became friends with the landlord of the local pub, The Rose & Crown, and slightly more than friends with one of the barstaff, the particular young lady had a few 'friends' in the village and was known for being 'accommodating', which I can confirm.  I would often trade printing services to the landlord for beer and food.  In fact, during my time there, I completely refreshed all of his signage and designed him new menus.  I also became addicted to Salmon & Salad cream sandwiches.

One lunchtime he came over and said:

'Can you use a hammer?'

'Yes, of course.' I lied, nodding like a loon - In fairness, at this stage I wasn't particularly sure which end you held and which end you hit stuff with.

'Come with me...'

We went into the somewhat dilapidated beer garden and he showed me a long strip of concrete that he'd had laid.

'Very nice,' I said, not really sure what it was I was looking at.

'It's my new skittle alley, if you give me a hand putting a roof over it, I'll pay you in beer and sandwiches.'

So, I spent the summer of 1986 building a skittle alley (which may or may not still be there), a huge chicken coop for his 'fancy hens', and learning some very interesting things from a barmaid some seven years older than myself.


One Friday morning, I was sat in the office, spinning around on the chair, waiting for my check-in call from Margot.  The phone rang, I answered it, it was Margot.  But this time the call was a little different.

'Dandy, what are you doing on Monday?'

'I don't know, whatever you tell me to I suppose.'

'Right, we're going on holiday for the month, and I need you to feed the cats.'


'I'll come and pick you up and show you what needs doing.'

So I sat and waited, and then waited, and then waited a bit more and eventually the popping and banging from the exhaust of the Alfa announced her arrival.  I locked up and went out to meet her.

'Sorry I'm late,' She said, 'Pippa and Debbie turned up, so we all had a bit of a drinkie.'

We drove to her place, which was an apartment in an old manor house down the road and she showed me where everything was, how much the cats ate and where the tea and coffee was.  It turned out that they wanted to me close the office and come and stay all day in their apartment whilst they were away.

Everything was sorted, and she was just about to drive me to the nearest bus stop when I had a call of nature.  Margot directed me to the correct area and I went into what was a very well appointed Victorian style bathroom.

Which just happened to have a life-size  naked, photograph of her over the bath.  It answered a couple of questions for me, the first one being that her blonde hair hadn't, as I'd first though, come out of a bottle, and the second was that certain parts of her anatomy, that I'd thought had been surgically enhanced, probably weren't.

When I left the bathroom, some twenty minutes later, she looked at me and said,

'Perhaps I should have warned you about that... I used to model when I was younger'

I just nodded, as I didn't really want her to hear how out of breath I was.  The drive to the bus stop was a little bit weird in fairness, but I'd just about pulled myself together enough to go to the pub that night and tell everyone I knew, and a lot of people that I didn't.

On Monday I went to her flat, and her next-door neighbour let me in.  I fed the cats and made a coffee.  She had some bayonets hanging on the wall, so I had a bit of a fiddle with those, wandered around the gardens and had a general sniff around.

I found some modelling photos, and then more modelling photos, and then some photos that weren't exactly of her modelling, I mean she wasn't looking at the camera in most of them, neither was the other person in them, and they were probably taken by a third person.  If I was her, I would have probably have hidden these away from prying eyes, rather than leave them on display, in the back of her underwear drawer, under what amounted to a false bottom.

The next four weeks virtually flew past.  And when she called me on the Monday to make sure I was back in the office she sounded quite upset, I asked her what was wrong and she said:

'Those people! The neighbours we left the key with! They've been through my stuff, even my underwear drawer! I'll never speak to them again!'

I expressed my shock at their despicable behaviour... And left it at that.

See you on Monday kids, and remember, you never really know anyone until you've seen them naked.

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